Mitchell looks to heat up as Jazz host Suns

NBA

The Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz both look to build on recent success and end a bizarre and difficult 2020 on a positive note when they meet Thursday night in Salt Lake City.

Phoenix, which has wins over Dallas, Sacramento and New Orleans this season, will try to win three in a row for the first time since ending the 2019-20 season with an eight-game winning streak in the NBA bubble this summer.

The Jazz hope to earn their first home win of the season after escaping from Oklahoma City with a 110-109 victory Monday. Utah lost its only home game Saturday against Minnesota after a season-opening win at Portland.

“I don’t feel like we played our best, but that’s the challenge, to figure out how to win when you don’t have your best game,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after beating the Thunder on the road for the first time in a decade. “We hope we can take this and build on it and keep getting better.”

This is the first night of a home back-to-back set for the Jazz, who host the Clippers on New Year’s Day before a seven-game road trip.

The Jazz have won two of three games so far despite a rough shooting start for All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell. He’s averaging 20.3 points, but has only hit 32.3 percent of his field goals and 27.6 percent from 3-point range.

Mitchell, who signed a $195 million extension in the offseason, finished strong after struggling with his shot against Oklahoma City. He fired in the final 12 points for Utah, including a game-winning layup with seven seconds remaining. Mitchell ended with 20 points on 8-of-23 shooting.

Utah was also boosted by the play of Bojan Bogdanovic (23 points) and Mike Conley (20).

Snyder liked that Mitchell used screens more effectively and adjusted to the Thunder’s defense better as the night progressed.

“That’s the idea,” Snyder said, “to get better as the game goes on.”

Likewise, the Suns’ star-studded backcourt combo of Chris Paul and Devin Booker got plenty of help against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday. Jae Crowder poured in 21 points with five 3-pointers, Cameron Johnson added 18 points, and DeAndre Ayton contributed 13 points and 12 rebounds in the 111-86 victory.

“We couldn’t contain them on the dribble, we couldn’t handle the ball, their pressure really got us, the pace got us,” New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy said about the well-rounded Suns. “They had a much higher energy level.”

In all, six Phoenix players scored in double figures, a group that didn’t include Paul or Booker. They combined for 17 points, with Paul tallying nine points and nine assists in 23 minutes and Booker scoring eight points in 26 minutes.

“If you can win a game like that and only play Booker and Chris no more than (26) minutes, it gives the other guys confidence,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “But we know who our two best players are. There’s no mistaking that.”

Dario Saric played for the first time this season Tuesday after missing three games with right quad soreness, while Jalen Smith sat out with an ankle sprain. Utah doesn’t have any listed injuries.

–Field Level Media

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